Thousands gather in the streets of Manhattan to rally for peace 15 February, 2003 in New York.

Thousands gather in the streets of Manhattan to rally for peace 15 February, 2003 in New York. Anti-war protestors came out in their millions in cities around the world on Saturday as the United States looked increasingly isolated over the invasion of Iraq.

(Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/GettyImages)

20 Years of Wars and 20 Years Standing for Peace

From February 15, 2003 to February 15, 2023

From the passage of the AUMF to providing Ukraine with tanks, more than two decades of wars have hurtled by since the freezing cold morning when we got up, dressed in our warmest layers and braved the cold to board the bus at Town Hall and travel to New York City joining the millions on the day the world said no to war.

Rallies were held around the world on February 15, 2003 to protest the coming war on Iraq. Eleven million people turned out. Historic numbers of people took to the streets before a war had started, yet were not enough to halt the orchestrated, criminal war on Iraq.

In March of 2003, the world was assaulted by the fireworks spectacle of “Shock and Awe,” while the people of Iraq were assaulted by U.S. bombs and missiles raining down on them, destroying cities, maiming and killing children, women, and men.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Inflicting death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the U.S. $8 trillion—and counting—while running up the national debt. More U.S. service members and veterans of the post 9/11 wars have committed suicide than were killed in combat.

There has been zero accountability for the lies, disinformation, propaganda, and documented war crimes committed by the U.S. that include: torture, murders by drone attacks, ravaging of civil society, the wanton destruction of cities, and infrastructure.

Instead of the harsh light of scrutiny being focused on war crimes to hold war criminals accountable, those who put truth into the public arena: Australian journalist Julian Assange and a handful of whistleblowers (Manning, Snowden, Hale) pay a steep price of persecution exile, and imprisonment for doing the right thing. As in the past, anti-war activists who maintained a street presence, calling for the wars to end, were routinely spied upon by the FBI.

The beneficiaries of wars are weapons manufacturers. Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes said to investors in January of 2021: "Look, peace is not going to break out in the Middle East anytime soon. I think it remains an area where we'll continue to see solid growth." By solid growth he means killing will continue.

Hayes forthrightly revealed the deep vested interests that foment manufactured wars rooted in lies and propaganda. The connections between military personnel, politicians, financiers, military contractors, and news outlets maintain the steady flow of wealth (weapons companies got $768 billion in 2021) from public coffers to private hands. These people are hardly policy experts since every war they promote in a cynical sing-song tap dance routine meant to bamboozle and distract is a lost cause; they are just war-profiteers.

Looming fiscal restraint due to reaching the debt ceiling means cutting spending that is not devoted to wars. War dollars will never fall under the harsh ax of budget cuts. We will surely see this play out in Congress in the coming months, even as the U.S. continues to provide Ukraine with billions of dollars of armaments, escalating and prolonging a dangerous conflict that could involve nuclear weapons.

After 20 years of pointless, expensive, unwinnable wars, we might ask some of the following questions of ourselves and our political leaders.

Are we “safer” now than back in 2003?

The Doomsday Clock was at 7 minutes to midnight in 2003, on January 24, 2023 it was moved to 90 seconds to midnight. Nuclear weapons make all human beings and all life on earth expendable, it takes only one hour to destroy our planet. This fact of the atomic age has contributed to a nihilistic, dismissive approach towards the climate crisis.

Every war escalates, every war expands, and many wars involve nuclear-use threats. The U.S. has made nuclear threats, as President Vladimir Putin of Russia has done more recently. The threshold of nuclear use is dangerously low due to new lower-yield nuclear weapons being developed by all the nuclear-armed states.

Why not join the Nuclear Ban Treaty and abolish all nuclear weapons instead?

The climate crisis is upon us, with drought, flood, wildfire, unbearable heat, famine, and disease. In this century, the planet is now expected to heat up 2.7C which will lead to the disappearance of 68% of glaciers. Glacier melt provides drinking and irrigation water to billions of people. Unprecedented global cooperation is needed to face our collective calamity to take steps towards mitigation. Yet, global cooperation is only evident in power alignments around war-making. Nations are joining NATO, aligning with the U.S. sphere in the wake of Russia attacking Ukraine. The U.S. is expanding its involvement aiding Ukraine, while continuing to make reckless threats against China, a nuclear-armed state with more than one billion people. The global arms trade is lethally lucrative. Additional global hotspots are India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine. India, Pakistan and Israel have nuclear weapons. There are “sideshow” wars: Syria was catapulted into a war on the heels of a severe drought. The war expanded, half a million people were killed and 5.6 million fled. At one point, eleven different countries were bombing Syria! Political conflict over control of Yemen denies even cancer medicine to children. Nearly half a million people have been killed. The Saudi blockade prevents all but inadequate supplies of food and fuel into the country. The U.S. has provided weapons and direct military assistance to Saudi Arabia for this war.

If wars continue to be waged how will the climate crisis ever be addressed?

Why did the U.S. wage a pointless war on Afghanistan?

The Taliban controlled Afghanistan in 2001 and the Taliban controls Afghanistan in 2023.

The Pentagon budget is larger than ever, yet the Pentagon has never passed an audit.

Why isn’t the Pentagon ever held accountable for the trillions it spends and the wars it loses?

An endless barrage of propaganda fuels and justifies wars, militarizing minds and imaginations. After decades of pointless wars, there is fervid energy for waging war on Russia. At a lobbying session a few months back, a Congressional aide in Massachusetts actually said, “…when Russia no longer exists as a state…”

What will it take to challenge and change a mindset that suspends reason and critical thinking?

Most victims in wars are civilians. Globally, more than 100 million people have been displaced due to violence and war with no end in sight.

Every war ends with negotiations, compromises, treaties; no conflict or grievance can be solved with military might, why not start with negotiations so that policies reflect reality?

The peace community within civil society has an excellent track record in forecasting the outcome of the wars (there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the cost will be more than we can afford at the expense of all that we need in our society, we will be less safe, civilians will be killed indiscriminately, our troops will suffer PTSD, wars cannot be ‘won’).

Why are civil society voices the ones so easily dismissed as unrealistic, while warmongers who fantasize publicly about romps to “victory” are taken seriously?

How can we find our way forward given the difficulties?

Life on earth is ever more fragile, our species should learn to hold as our deepest concern the well-being of people, particularly children, not property and power, and end the cruel specter of war that has long plagued humanity.

We must oppose any and all wars with a global outpouring that is large enough. If 11 million people around the world protesting the coming war on Iraq were not enough to prevent that war, then we’d do well to find the magic number and reach it, to put the war machine out of business forever. All life on Earth urgently demands this of us.

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